Did you know that making crafts can actually help decrease your arthritis and joint pain? It’s true. “Just like with any body part, hands with arthritis need to be moved,” says physical therapist Inna Kuznetsov. Physical therapist Courtney Wack agrees, explaining that joints can stiffen when they’re not moved for long periods. “Movement and exercise can increase synovial fluid productions, which can improve joint function and decrease pain” she says.
Any crafts that include kneading, crocheting or painting with larger-size brushes can be particularly helpful, says Kuznetsov, as can activities like making puzzles, playing cards or gardening.
Hand and Wrist Stretches
To reduce pain during other crafting activities, consider incorporating some simple hand and wrist stretches and exercises to loosen up your joints.
- Wrist Flexor Stretch: Raise your left arm in front of you, keeping it parallel to the floor with your elbow straight. Grasp you left hand with your right, and slowly bend your fingers back until you feel a stretch. Hold for 20-30 seconds. Repeat on the right side.
- Wrist Extensor Stretch: With your left arm in front of you and your elbow straight, grasp your left hand with your right and slowly bend your hand down until you feel a stretch. Hold 20-30 seconds. Repeat on the right side.
- Finger Opposition: Actively touch your right thumb to each fingertip. Start with your index finger and end with your little finger. Move slowly at first, then more rapidly as motion and coordination improve. Perform for 30-60 seconds with each hand.
- Towel Roll Squeeze: Roll up a small towel and place it in your right hand. With your right forearm resting on a table or other surface, gently squeeze the towel 10 times. Repeat on the left side.
- Paper Crumpling Exercise: Begin with your right palm down on a piece of paper. While maintaining contact between the surface and the heel of your hand, crumple the paper into a ball.
While these stretches are a good place to start, says physical therapist Heather Schroeder, “further assessment is always needed by a physical therapist to determine more specific exercises for your condition.”
Preventing Neck and Back Pain
In addition to arthritis and joint pain, crafting can affect neck pain and back pain. To decrease your chances of experiencing these types of pain, make sure you’re sitting in a comfortable chair or couch that is high enough from the floor so that your hips are higher than your knees. This position will allow your body to maintain a better posture. Sitting for long periods in a chair that’s too low makes your back curve, which puts more pressure on your spine and can cause increased back or neck pain.
When completing a project that may take long periods of time, remember to get up and walk around every 30 minutes or so. The joints in your hands aren’t the only ones that need lubrication. Take some time to stretch your back and legs.